The History Of The Home Run Derby
The day before the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is a much-anticipated event in its own right: The 2017 Home Run Derby. If you’re a baseball fan who’s always waiting with bated breath for the next epic home run, then no doubt you already have July 10 marked on your calendar. However, newer baseball fans or casual sports viewers might be slightly confused. What exactly is a “Home Run Derby?”
If you’re a bit fuzzy on the details, don’t worry. Below you’ll find all the facts you’ll need to get you up to speed and help you appreciate why this is such a highly-anticipated event.
History Of The Home Run Derby
Many baseball historians will mark the beginning of the contest as 1985, with Dave Parker of the Cincinnati Reds as the first ever winner. However, that’s not exactly true. As Fox Sports writes, the Home Run Derby is more or less a revival of the previous home run contest that was “made for TV in the early 1960s.”
The concept of a “home run derby” was a weekly rather than annual event. The competition offered a $2,000 check — a considerable amount of money for the time — and a few other perks as well as bragging rights. The show ran for 26 episodes and was notable for featuring future baseball Hall of Famers such as Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays.
Ironically, the first several years of the annual Home Run Derby weren’t televised. It wasn’t until ESPN began televising the contest in 1994 that it was truly enjoyed by baseball fans nationwide. In recent years, the event has proved to be a ratings gold mine for the sports network
Chris Berman provided commentary for the Derby since it’s ESPN debut. In 2017, ESPN announced that Karl Ravech would be taking over as the “voice of the Home Run Derby.”
Baseball great Ken Griffey Jr. dominated the event through several appearances and a record three wins.
Home Run Derby Tickets
Home Run Derby Rules
Despite several rule changes, the basic format of the Home Run Derby is rather simple. The 2017 Derby will feature eight players in a single elimination bracket. As of 2016, players get seeded according to their home run records for the season in question. An additional change has National League (NL) and American League (AL) batters competing head-to-head.
It’s also worth noting that originally, a missed home run was considered an “out”; players had so many outs before their turn ended. However, the Home Run Derby switched to using a clock in 2015. During each round of competition, batters will get four minutes to hit as many home runs as they can. There are ways to add time to the clock, such as hitting home runs of a distance greater than 420 feet. It’s also possible to stop the clock in the final minute by hitting a home run. The clock will not restart until the batter fails to hit a home run.
These changes are meant to make the Home Run Derby that much more exciting and competitive.
What is the Home Run Derby “Curse?”
Baseball is, like many popular sports, prone to superstitions and rumors. So it should be of little surprise that the Home Run Derby is itself thought to contain a curse. According to a 2009 article published by the Wall Street Journal, players who hit more than ten home runs during the Derby saw their performance in the second half of the MLB season dip dramatically. This conclusion differed from various studies of the Home Run Derby, which found no significant connection to a great Derby performance and a poor MLB performance.
The Home Run Derby is a great annual tradition that highlights one of the more magical aspects of baseball that even non-fans appreciate: the home run. Some years are better for the Derby than others, but always there’s the anticipation of seeing truly talented “sluggers” compete for a place in history as well as major bragging rights!
(Image courtesy of Eric Kilby via Flickr.)